Dolores Huerta discuses her role in as a civil rights leader

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A new documentary currently in theaters chronicles the life of civil rights activist and co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association Dolores Huerta, who spoke with Horizonte about her role as an activist. Watch the full interview here.

>> Ted Simons: IF THERE IS
CREATIVE DESTRUCTION OUT THERE,
DO THE NEW GREEN SHOOTS, I MEAN,
WE'RE LOOKING AT POISON IVY OR
ARE WE LOOKING AT CONSTRUCTIVE
PLANTS?
>> Fernanda Santos: I GUESS THAT REMAINS TO BE
SEEN, RIGHT?
WHAT I THINK IS REALLY
INTERESTING, AND PHIL JUST
TOUCHED UPON IT, IS THAT BECAUSE
OF THIS CHAOTIC SITUATION,
BECAUSE OF THIS CREATIVE
DESTRUCTION THAT'S HAPPENING,
YOU HAVE PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES OF
THE AISLE STARTING TO EVEN
QUESTION THE NEED FOR ONE PARTY
REPRESENTING THE RIGHT, ONE
PARTY REPRESENTING THE LEFT.
YOU MAY BE OF THE LEFT BUT NOT
NECESSARILY BELIEVE THAT THE
DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS THE BEST
ENTITY, THE BEST INSTITUTION TO
REPRESENT YOUR INTERESTS.
YOU MAY ACTUALLY BE VERY
CRITICAL OF THEM.
IN FACT, THERE WAS A STORY THIS
PAST WEEK ON THE FRONT PAGE OF
THE TIMES THAT TALKED ABOUT THAT
SPECIFICALLY, WHERE THERE'S NOW
BIG MONEY THAT USED TO FUND ONLY
STANDARD DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES
AND CAUSES THAT'S NOW BEING
DIVERTED TOWARDS THESE MORE
DISRUPTIVE GROUPS THAT ARE
TRYING TO CREATE A NEW LEFT,
BECAUSE WE KNOW THERE IS A NEW
RIGHT, RIGHT?
SO NOW WE HAVE THIS NEW LEFT
ALSO COMING OUT.
>> Ted Simons: VERY INTERESTING.
WE'LL CONTINUE TO WATCH THIS.
HOW CAN YOU NOT CONTINUE TO
WATCH THIS?
WE'LL CONTINUE TO HAVE YOU ON TO
TALK ABOUT THE MEDIA REACTION AS
WELL.
GOOD TO SEE YOU BOTH.
UP NEXT, A CONVERSATION WITH
LONG-TIME CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER
DOLORES HUERTA.
>> Ted Simons: CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER DOLORES
HUERTA FOUGHT FOR LABOR AND
JUSTICE ISSUES ALONGSIDE CESAR
CHAVEZ IN THE 1960S, CO-FOUNDED
NATIONAL FARM WORKERS
ASSOCIATION AND IS CREDITED WITH
THE PHRASE SI SE PUEDE.
HERE IS SOME OF THE INTERVIEW
WHICH WILL AIR IN ITS ENTIRETY
TONIGHT AT 10:00 ON ARIZONA PBS.
>>Jose: YOU STARTED YOUR AS A
TEACHER?
>> Dolores C. Huerta: YES.
>> Jose: THEN YOU WERE DRAWN TO
ACTIVISM.
TELL US ABOUT THAT.
>>Dolores C. Huerta: WELL, AS A TEACHER, I SAW THE
CONDITIONS OF THE CHILDREN IN MY
CLASSROOMS, DOING THIS CIVIC
ENGAGEMENT GOING DOOR-TO-DOOR, I
WENT TO DOORS REGISTERING
VOTERS, I SAW FAMILIES WHERE
THEY HAD CARDBOARD FURNITURE AND
ORANGE CRATES, YOU KNOW, WHERE
THEY KEPT THEIR CLOTHES, THEY
HAD NO TYPE OF LINOLEUM, ONLY
DIRT FLOORS IN THEIR HOMES, AND
YOU SAW CHILDREN THAT WERE
MALNUTRITIONED, AND KNOWING HOW
HARD THESE FARM WORKER FAMILIES
WORKED ACTUALLY AND TO SEE THE
CONDITIONS THEY WERE HAVING TO
LIVE IN, I JUST THOUGHT THAT
THAT WAS SOMETHING THAT WE
NEEDED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT.
SINCE I HAD LEARNED SOME
ORGANIZING SKILLS FROM THE GREAT
FRED SENIOR.
>> Jose: THAT WAS WITH CSO?
>> Dolores C. Huerta: COMMUNITY SERVICE
ORGANIZATION.
>> Jose: YOU WERE AN ORGANIZER THERE,
SO WAS CESAR CHAVEZ, THAT'S HOW
YOU MET.
>> Dolores C. Huerta: I WAS A VOLUNTEER ORGANIZER,
FOR THE COMMUNITY SERVICE
ORGANIZATIONS, THEN MR. FRED
ROSS WHO WAS THE ONE WHO
ORGANIZED ME AND WHO ALSO
ORGANIZED TESSA, LATER ON I WAS
ABLE TO MEET CESAR.
ONE THING THAT WE HAD IN COMMON
WAS THE CONDITION OF FARM
WORKERS AND FELT THAT SOMETHING
HAD TO BE DONE ABOUT THAT AND
PROBABLY THE BEST THING WE COULD
DO IS ORGANIZE A UNION.
>> Jose: THE SENTIMENT THAT HE HAD, I
THINK YOU AGREED, WAS IT WASN'T
GOING TO BE DONE THROUGH CSO,
YOU NEEDED TO FORM YOUR OWN
UNION.
>> Dolores C. Huerta: ACTUALLY WE WANTED TO GO
THROUGH CSO BUT AT THE BOARD
THEY VOTED US DOWN AND THEY
VOTED NOT TO SUPPORT AN
ORGANIZATION OF FARM WORKERS.
INITIALLY THAT WAS THE PLAN TO
GO THROUGH CSO, MAKE IT LIKE A
PILOT PROJECT WITHIN THE
COMMUNITY SERVICE ORGANIZATION,
BUT WHEN WE HAD OUR CONVENTION,
THEY VOTED AGAINST US.
>> Jose: ONE OF THE THEMES IN THE
MOVIE IS YOUR ROLE, THE ROLE OF
WOMEN OVERALL IN THE MOVEMENT.
BUT PARTICULARLY AT YOUR LEVEL
AND WE'VE SHOWN SOME PICTURES
WHILE WE WERE TALKING.
YOU'RE THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE
ROOM.
>> Dolores C. Huerta: YEAH, SO THAT WAS AT THE
BOARD LEVEL, AND UNFORTUNATELY
WE KNOW THIS KIND OF TO THE DAY
THAT WE HAVE SO MANY BOARDS
THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY AND SO
MANY COUNTRIES THAT DO NOT HAVE
WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP, AND I DO
VERY STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT WE DO
HAVE TO HAVE WOMEN IN
LEADERSHIP.
IN FACT, I LIKE TO SAY IF
THEY'RE MAKING AN IMPORTANT
DECISION, AND THERE ARE NO WOMEN
IN THE ROOM, THEY'RE GOING TO
MAKE THE WRONG DECISION.
THAT'S HOW IMPORTANT I THINK
WOMEN'S VOICES ARE.
>> Jose: WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE
FOR YOU?
AT LEAST THE PERCEPTION OF THE
MEXICAN CULTURE, VERY MACHISMO,
MALE-CENTERED, AND THE PICTURES
JUST SHOW YOU AND FIVE OR SIX OR
SEVEN OR EIGHT OTHER MEN IN THE
ROOM IN THE DECISION-MAKING
ROLES.
WHAT KIND OF PREJUDICE DID YOU
ENCOUNTER?
>> Dolores C. Huerta: WELL, AMONG THE FARM WORKERS,
NOT THAT MUCH BECAUSE I HAD BEEN
A FOUNDER AND I HAD BEEN AN
INITIAL ORGANIZER OF THE FARM
WORKERS, SO I GOT A LOT OF
SUPPORT FROM THE FARM WORKERS.
WHERE I GOT THE PUSHBACK WAS
FROM A LOT OF THE LEADERSHIP IN
THE UNION, FROM THE OTHER MEN
LEADERSHIP BECAUSE THEY WOULD
EITHER TRY TO TAKE CREDIT FOR MY
WORK OR THEY WOULD TRY TO
PREVENT ME FROM DOING WHAT I
THOUGHT I NEEDED TO DO, AND THEY
WERE TRYING TO UNDERMINE ME
OFTEN WITH CEASAR.
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT CEASAR HAD
A LOT OF FAITH IN MY WORK SO WE
WORKED VERY WELL TOGETHER.
THAT'S AN ONGOING THING,
MACHISMO, IT'S NOT LIMITED TO
THE LATINO COMMUNITY, AS YOU
KNOW, WE CAN SEE THAT BY OUR
LAST PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, SAW
THE MOST QUALIFIED WOMAN
PROBABLY EVER IN THE UNITED
STATES WHO LOST TO A MAN THAT
WAS -- HILLARY CLINTON.
SO THE MACHISMO IS VERY DEEP IN
OUR SOCIETIES, AS IS RACISM,
HOMOPHOBIA, BIGOTRY, ET CETERA,
ALL THESE ISMS THAT INFECT AND
POISON OUR SOCIETY.
>> Jose: WHILE THERE WEREN'T THAT MANY
WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP ROLES IN THE
UNION, THERE WERE A LOT OF WOMEN
INVOLVED IN THE UNION ITSELF,
SOMETHING THAT CESAR
APPRECIATED, YOUR ABILITY TO GET
THEM INVOLVED.
HOW HARD WAS IT TO CONVINCE THE
WOMEN TO GET INVOLVED IN THE
MOVEMENT?
>> Dolores C. Huerta: ACTUALLY, WHEN THE STRIKE
STARTED, IT STARTED IN THE
GRAPES AND 50% PERCENT OF THE
WORKFORCE IN THE GRAPE FIELD WAS
WOMEN, SO THAT WAS A NATURAL
EVOLUTION THAT WOMEN WERE THE
ONES THAT MANNED THE PICKET
LINES AND IN FACT CESAR'S WIFE
HELEN CHAVEZ AND HER SISTERS
WERE ALL GRAPE WORKERS, AND
WHILE WE WERE FORMING THE
ORGANIZATION, SHE ACTUALLY
HELPED IN THE FIELDS TO HELP
SUPPORT THE ORGANIZATION.
WE HAD A LOT OF WOMEN THAT WERE
YOU MIGHT SAY THE WORKER BEES OF
YOUR ORGANIZATION, BUT THEY WERE
NOT AT THE BOARD LEVEL.
>> Jose: ONE OF THE COMMENTS MADE BY
THE DIRECTORS IS THAT YOU WERE A
FEMINIST AS A CHILD AND
ATTRIBUTE THAT IN PART TO YOUR
OWN MOTHER WHO WAS A BUSINESS
WOMAN.
>> Dolores C. Huerta: RIGHT.
AND MY MOTHER WAS A DOMINANT
PERSON IN OUR FAMILY BECAUSE SHE
MADE THE DECISIONS, SHE WAS A
STRONG MEMBER OF THE COMMUNITY
IN TERMS OF ALWAYS CONTRIBUTING
AND MAKING DECISIONS FOR THE
COMMUNITY, SHE STARTED THE FIRST
MEXICAN AMERICAN CHAMBER OF
COMMERCE IN STOCKTON,
CALIFORNIA, SO SHE WAS A LEADER
IN THE COMMUNITY.
A VERY QUIET PERSON, BUT ALSO
VERY EFFECTIVE.
>> Dolores C. Huerta: ONE OF THE COMMENTS THAT WAS
MADE IS THAT THE MOVIE INTENDS
TO SHOW YOUR LIFE, WARTS AND
ALL, AND I PRESUME ONE OF THE
WARTS THAT THEY'RE REFERRING TO
IS THE FACT THAT YOU SACRIFICED
A LOT WITH RESPECT TO YOUR OWN
FAMILY, THAT WAS SHOWN A LITTLE
BIT IN THE TRAILER.
YOU HAD 11 CHILDREN, HAVE 11
CHILDREN, BUT YOU WEREN'T ABLE
TO SPEND MUCH TIME WITH THEM.
THEY TALKED ABOUT THE PRIDE IN
YOU BUT THE PAIN THAT THAT
CAUSED.
>> Dolores C. Huerta: I KNOW ALL OF US MOTHERS,
THAT IS THE ONE THING WE ALWAYS
WORRY ABOUT, ESPECIALLY WORKING
MOTHERS, ESPECIALLY SINGLE
MOTHERS, WHO IS GOING TO TAKE
CARE OF OUR CHILDREN?
THAT'S THE THING EVERY SINGLE
DAY WHEN YOU WAKE UP, IS MY
CHILD GOING TO BE OKAY WHILE I
GO TO WORK AND EARN A LIVING FOR
MY FAMILY, AND TO ME THAT CALLS
FOR A GREAT NEED WE HAVE IN THE
UNITED STATES TO HAVE EARLY
CHILDHOOD EDUCATION SO THAT WE
KNOW THAT OUR KIDS ARE SAFE
WHILE MOTHERS ARE WORKING, AND
OBVIOUSLY MY CHILDREN HAD TO
SACRIFICE MORE THAN OTHER
CHILDREN, THEY WEREN'T ABLE TO
HAVE THE NICE MIDDLE CLASS
UPBRINGING THAT I HAD BECAUSE MY
MOTHER WAS A BUSINESS WOMAN, MY
CHILDREN WERE VERY DEPRIVED OF A
LOT OF THINGS THAT OTHER KIDS
TAKE FOR GRANTED, BUT ON THE
OTHER HAND, THEY GREW UP VERY,
VERY STRONG.
I SAY TO ALL MOTHERS OUT THERE,
BECAUSE I KNOW WE DO HAVE THIS
WORRY, WHEN ASKED HOW WERE YOU
ABLE TO DO THAT?
I SAY YOU EVER TO ASK FOR HELP.
YOU KNOW, I HAD SO MANY PEOPLE
HELP ME WITH MY CHILDREN, I HAD
MY MOTHER, MY AUNTS, MY COUSINS,
NEIGHBORS, EVERYBODY THAT I
COULD POSSIBLY FIND TO HELP ME
TAKE CARE OF MY CHILDREN WHILE I
DID ALL THIS WORK.
THEN I TOOK MY CHILDREN WITH ME,
I TOOK MY CHILDREN TO NEW YORK
WITH ME, I TOOK THEM CHICAGO, TO
SAN FRANCISCO, TO MANY PLACES,
MANY OF THEM THAT I COULD TAKE
WITH ME, I WOULD.
>> Jose: AND THEY DO TALK ABOUT THE
POSITIVES THAT CAME FROM THAT.
THE MOVIE ITSELF IS REALLY A
HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
DURING THIS TIME PERIOD.
THERE ARE A LOT OF HISTORICAL
FIGURES WHO APPEAR.
ONE SEGMENT SHOWS YOU STANDING
NEXT TO BOBBY KENNEDY THE NIGHT
THAT HE WAS ASSASSINATED.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP
WITH HIM AND THE IMPACT THAT HIS
DEATH HAD.
>> Dolores C. Huerta: WELL, ROBERT KENNEDY WAS A
GREAT SUPPORTER OF THE UNITED
FARM WORKERS, AS THE AFRICAN
AMERICAN COMMUNITY, AS HE WAS
WITH THE PEOPLE IN APPALACHIA,
HE HAD THAT ABILITY TO GO DOWN
AND REALLY CONNECT WITH THE
POOREST PEOPLE OF ALL, AND
HAVING WORKED WITH BOBBY
KENNEDY, IT ALSO REALLY MADE YOU
REALIZE THAT THERE WERE PEOPLE
OUT THERE THAT WERE REALLY
POWERFUL PEOPLE THAT REALLY
CARED ABOUT THE POOREST OF THE
NATION, LIKE THE FARM WORKERS.
UNFORTUNATELY, AS THE MOVIE
SHOWS, THAT WE DID LOSE HIM, BUT
THERE'S ONE LINE IN THE MOVIE,
I'M GOING TO BE A SPOILER.
>> Jose: OKAY.
>> Dolores C. Huerta: HE SAYS, JUST BEFORE HE GETS
KILLED, HE SAYS WE HAVE A
RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR FELLOW
CITIZENS, AS HE WAS ACCEPTING
THE FACT THAT HE HAD WON THE
CALIFORNIA PRIMARY, WAS PROBABLY
GOING TO GO ON TO WIN THE
PRESIDENCY OF THE UNITED STATES,
AND THOSE WERE HIS LAST PUBLIC
WORDS, WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY
TO OUR FELLOW CITIZENS.
AND I THOUGHT THAT THAT TO ME IS
WHAT THE MOVIE IS ALL ABOUT,
BASICALLY, THAT THE
RESPONSIBILITY THAT WE HAVE TO
OUR FELLOW CITIZENS, BE THEY
HOMELESS, MENTALLY ILL, FARM
WORKERS, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE THAT
ARE DISABLED, WE ALL HAVE A
RESPONSIBILITY, AND WE HAVE A
RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR FELLOW
CITIZENS TO MAKE OUR COUNTRY A
BETTER COUNTRY, TO GET INVOLVED
IN VOTING, GET INVOLVED IN
CAMPAIGNS, MAKING SURE THAT WE
ELECT PROGRESSIVE CANDIDATES
THAT ARE GOING TO REALLY WORK
FOR THE PEOPLE AND NOT WORK
AGAINST THE PEOPLE.

Dolores Huerta: Political Activist, Dolores Huerta Foundation

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